Tuesday, March 1, 2011
What do you really need?
Good question, right? How much stuff do you really need? How much are you going to have to spend? I know that I've stressed in previous posts that this can be a really low-cost hobby, but I really want to drive the message home here. This is my supply drawer. Yup. That's pretty much everything. A strainer, some funnels, some plastic tubing, balloons, an alcohol content measurer, some transfer pipettes for checking alcohol content. What's not in the picture? Ingredients and containers. Which for a beginner means milk jugs. What could I get by without having? Everything in the picture. Seriously. That's how easy this can be!
What do we have down here? Oh, this is my works in progress area. That's right, a rubbermaid bin with some one gallon fermentation vessels in it. And some wine I bottled in the last few months. By the way, did I mention where all of my wine bottles come from? I save them! Use them over and over again, have family and friends save them. Grab them from you neighbors the night before the recycling gets picked up. They're everywhere, and they're free! Although you should be wary of telling everyone you know that you're in need of wine bottles. I have three aunts that make a heavenly apple cider every year, up to about 800 bottles of it I believe, but they have several thousand bottles to sort through because everyone has been saving bottles for them for several years! They prefer champagne bottles because they're thicker, stronger, and are great if you want to make a bubbly wine or cider or mead.
When you start out, do everything as cheap as you can, then as you learn more and do more you'll acquire more tools, timesavers, and tips. Two great things that I wouldn't skimp on are yeast nutrients and pectinase (pectic enzyme). These both run between two and five dollars, and give you a lot for the money. I've only ever bought either of them once, still using them. The nutrients keep your yeast happy, and can make for an overall easier experience, and the same goes for the pectinase. This breaks down the carbohydrate pectin, which is a jelly-making molecule found naturally in fruits. Using this before and during fermentation of your fruit wines usually guarantees a faster clearing time for your wines, and some high-pectin fruit wines won't clear at all without using pectinase. It's much easier to clear a wine before (and early on in) fermentation than after the fact.
Take home message: just go for it! It's cheap, easy, and fun. And when your significant other tells you that they don't want bottles and buckets and smells all over the place, remind them of just how neat and easy it is, and that fermentation smells like fresh bread and fruits. (Unfortunately, this isn't always the case, but at the time it'll sound good.) Until next time...
Posted by Richard at 9:00 AM